Pence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers

Vice President Pence on Thursday cast a tie-breaking procedural vote that allowed the Senate to move forward with an effort to nix an Obama-era rule that blocked states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons. 

Pence appeared on the floor after a procedural vote stalled in a 50-50 tie, casting the 51st vote in favor.

Republican Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: My office has gotten 'pretty ugly voicemails, threats' over Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE (Maine) joined all Democrats in voting against ending debate on the bill. 

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Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonTrump blasts Tester at Montana rally: 'He loves the swamp' Renaming Senate office building after McCain sparks GOP backlash GOP senator warns Trump: Anyone who trash-talks McCain 'deserves a whipping' MORE (R-Ga.), who has been recovering from two back surgeries and hasn't voted since Feb. 17, returned to the Senate to cast a vote, creating the tie that led to Pence’s vote. 

Leadership held the vote open for roughly an hour as they rounded up enough votes to move forward. A final vote on getting rid of the Obama-era rule could happen as early as Thursday afternoon. 

Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back some Obama-era regulations with only a simple majority vote. 

Former President Obama's rule required that state and local governments distribute federal Title X funding for services related to contraception, fertility, pregnancy care and cervical cancer screenings to health providers, regardless of whether they also preform abortions. 

Democrats blasted Republicans for using Pence to break a tie on a procedural vote. 

As Republicans waited for Isakson to arrive, Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE's office sent a note to reporters with the subject line: "What's going on with this Senate vote? The VP needs to break the tie & harm women's health." 

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) criticized Pence’s tiebreaking vote, tweeting: “Just in case we didn't already have enough men making decisions on women's health.”

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations set stage for Anita Hill sequel Time for action to improve government data analysis MORE (D-Wash.)—who sat on the Senate floor and waited for Pence to arrive—pledged that Democrats would spend Thursday afternoon speaking out against the GOP-effort. 

“They're pushing this resolution so hard today to the point where they bring the vice president to break a tie, it's safe to bet that Republicans are going to try to attach riders to take away Planned Parenthood funding in the spending bill for the rest of the year,” said Murray—the No. 3 Senate Democrat.

Lawmakers have until April 28 to fund the government. House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE (R-Wis.) signaled this week that House Republicans wouldn't try to tie a Planned Parenthood fight to the spending bill. 

Republicans argue that getting rid of the regulation gives states more flexibility and push's back against Obama-era regulatory overreach. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump MORE (R-Ky.) argued that the Obama move hurt “local communities.”

“It substituted Washington's judgment for the needs of real people,” he said ahead of the vote. “This regulation is an unnecessary restriction on states that know their residents a lot better than the federal government.”

Pence last month cast the tiebreaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department. Murkowski and Collins also joined all Democrats in opposing her nomination, necessitating the tiebreaker.

Prior to that, the last time a vice president broke a tie in the Senate was 2008, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney voted on tax legislation.